Something in Lego just clicks. In 2015 it took over Ferrari to become the world’s most powerful brand, and in 2017 there were more Lego Minifigure people on Earth than humans. No longer just a simple toy company, Lego has been compared to cultural heavyweights like Apple. It’s not a surprise then that the 87-year-old company has also transformed the world’s most iconic franchises into Lego video games. From Star Wars to Harry Potter, Lego has worked with developer Traveller’s Tales to combine cinema and physical toys inside consoles for decades. Here are ten of the best.
10. Lego Lord of the Rings
If Tolkien purists were ever sniffy about the amount Peter Jackson compressed the books into three movies (those appendices are detailed), their nostrils hairs will be truly vacuumed by how corners had to be cut for Lego Lord of The Rings. But while the game is a bit of a SparkNotes trip to Mordor, it has such high production and recreated iconic moments so faithfully that you’re unlikely to care. From Bag End and back, the whole journey is here with lines and the original score pulled from the movies. From here on out Traveller’s Tales took more risks in its design, but Lego Lord of the Rings is still a solid adventure.
9. Lego Jurassic World
Lego and dinosaurs is a combination that – sadly – doesn’t appear in your daily life often enough. Thankfully, there’s a video game for that. Lego Jurassic World isn’t the most well-rounded of Traveller’s Tales’ adventures, but it’s a great diving in point thanks to the strength of its co-op gameplay and slapstick comedy. It wraps four of the Jurassic movies into one game and follows them faithfully - meaning there’s much less combat here than in other licensed titles. That makes sense, really, considering most of the movies are about humans trying to avoid close encounters with a dinosaur’s talon.
8. Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
The swashbuckling spectacle of a cutlass fight was always going to translate well to a video game. Lego Pirates of the Carribbean takes the action of the first four movies and turns it into extraordinary set pieces. Jack Sparrow’s slapstick humour fits perfectly with the Lego franchise’s whimsey, leading to some achingly funny moments - some that aren’t even in the actual movies themselves. I’m pretty sure no character ever rode a goat in Davy Jones’ locker, but after playing the game it’s a damn shame it didn’t make the cinematic cut. While the lack of dialogue sometimes makes the narrative stick, this is still a solid entry in the Lego canon. No, not that kind of canon.
7. Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4, 5-7
Technically these are two separate games, but they’re so good I’m lumping them into one must-play. All seven books have been transformed into a playable adventure that uses spellcasting to blast a dose of fresh air into the Lego game formula - wingardium leviosa, for instance, is your best friend for reaching high studs. Meanwhile, Hogwarts Castle is the ultimate hub world, packed with nooks and crannies to explore alongside a huge cast of characters. In fact, JK Rowling’s universe is the perfect landscape to set a video game in and these two Lego titles will please Potter superfans and casual gamers alike.
6. Lego City Undercover
Grand Theft Auto is widely considered one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time but there’s an awful lot of, well, naughtiness. Lego City Undercover is the family-friendly answer to that, but it somehow still retains fistfuls of charm without anaesthetising any of the adrenaline you’d expect from a GTA-esque experience. That’s largely thanks to how it pays homage to crime movies like Goodfellas, without ever explicitly riffing off an established franchise. The sprawling scale of the world leaves room for plenty of exploration after you finish the main 10-hour campaign, and in 2017 they even introduced co-op play.
5. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
There are many Lego Star Wars games to play (and there’ll be even more in 2020 with the arrival of the Skywalker Saga) but The Force Awakens is the most recent and gave the same vitamin boost to the Lego games as it did the Star Wars universe. The story is expertly woven, handling climactic story beats with ease and interspersing them with some cleverly irreverent humour. The best thing about Force Awakens though is its lip service to fans; it sneaks in characters from the original trilogy, and even fills in plot holes from the movie - like what Poe actually got up to on his Admiral Ackbar rescue mission.
4. Lego: The Incredibles
Each of the Parr family’s unique abilities make for excellent level design fodder. In Lego: The Incredibles you’ll need to switch frequently between Elastagirl’s stretchy limbs and, say, Dash’s supersonic speed to make it through tricky platforming puzzles. There’s also a nifty new addition in the form of group builds, where the Parrs must work together to construct towering, complex Lego structures in-game. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a nice touch that acknowledges these games are ultimately a virtual mirage of physical Lego building, which children have been doing with their parents for years.
3. Lego Marvel Superheroes
2013 was peak Marvel mania. The Avengers had arrived in cinemas the year before, and Travellers Tales released Lego Marvel Superheroes. It is a beautifully constructed love letter to the Marvel universe, cramming in hundreds of characters and locations from X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and more. In between missions, explore a Lego Manhattan, spanning from the Statue of Liberty to the X-Mansion up past Harlem, to the massive Shield Helicarrier that hovers over the East River. The open world is expertly made, and filled with enough wit and warmth to keep you entertained for hours.
2. Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes
Having made Lego games for seven years, in 2012 Travellers Tales tried a few things to shake up the formula with Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes. The first was having a full voice cast. Until then, silent protagonists had always been played for laughs, but fresh new actors brought life to plot points that otherwise wouldn’t have landed. DC Superheroes was also the first Lego game to introduce an open world, giving players the whole of Gotham City to explore. There were a couple of teething problems in making these two additions work smoothly – the minimap, for example, needed some polish – but it was a big step in the franchise’s history.
1. Lego Dimensions
It’s unusual for a game to begin by telling you to put your controller down and not play it, but that’s why Lego Dimensions is so good. Players use real-life Lego pieces physical toys that, when placed on a special base, enter the game and can be used in the virtual world. It was Lego’s first foray into the toys-to-life genre, which it played with by irreverently mixing massive franchises into one delicious soup. There’s a great joy in seeing the DC universe mesh with Lord of The Rings and watching Batman beat Sauron with the Bat Signal. You can tell real pop culture fans made this game, effortlessly weaving together The Simpsons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Portal and Doctor Who with just enough affectionate ribbing to not take the whole thing too seriously. Lego Dimensions is a brilliant toy, but it’s also a brilliant game.